US President Donald Trump has directed his government to "reform" the H-1B visa system and move toward merit-based immigration, White House officials said.
"Transition to a merit-based immigration system," the White House said in a statement shortly after Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily suspend H-1B and other work visas until the end of the year. The Trump administration would reform the immigration system to give priority to the highly skilled workforce and protect American jobs.
As part of these reforms, the H-1B program will prioritize those workers who are offered the highest wages to ensure that the most qualified applicants are admitted, the White House said.
The Trump administration will also fill gaps that have allowed US employers to replace American workers with low-cost foreign workers, it said.
These reforms will help protect American workers' wages and ensure that foreign workers entering our country are highly skilled and do not undermine the United States labor market, the White House added.
"One of the more permanent measures he's instructing us is to reform the H-1B system to move towards a more performance-oriented system. You hear the President talk about the best and the smartest all the time, and you hear him also talk about protecting American jobs, so these reforms will do both, "a senior official told reporters during a conference call.
As part of these reforms, the H-1B program will prioritize those workers who are offered the highest wages as the best proxy for what they bring to the table to contribute to the American economy, the official said.
The official noted that there is a cap on H-1B visas of 85,000 a year, and said that 2.25,000 applications for these visas were received last year.
"Until this year, these visas were distributed by random lottery … The President instructed us to get rid of the lottery and replace it with a ranking of salaries – so the best 85,000 salary offers will be among the approximately 225,000 applicants." Get visas, "said the official.
This will increase both the wage level and the qualification level of H-1B applicants. It will eliminate competition with Americans, reduce American entry-level competition in these industries, and do more to achieve the best and smartest, the official said.
According to the official, Trump has also instructed them to fill the gaps that have allowed employers to essentially outsource their workers domestically by replacing American workers with low-cost foreign workers.
"The way that gap worked was to analyze whether an incoming immigrant would displace an American worker at the company that hired the immigrant," said the official.
If the company hires a number of immigrants and then assigns them to another company – such as Disney or AT&T, to name just two historical examples – they will eventually displace American workers at Disney and AT&T, both of whom are infamously theirs had employees of American citizens training their H-1B replacement as the final act, the official said.
"The president has instructed us to stop this practice and will do so through regulation as soon as we can," said the senior official.
Trump has instructed, among other things, to change the applicable wage calculation and to adjust it in relation to H-1B wages.
"It's an old, crazy system from the Clinton era with four levels, and the prevailing wages are calculated on different bases," said the official.
"The Department of Labor will handle all of this, with the idea of setting the prevailing lower wage limit at the 50th percentile so that these people are at the top end of the income bracket so that we get the best and smartest, we" We bring the greatest added value to the economy and maximize the opportunities for Americans to get jobs, "said the official.
The labor minister will use his legal powers to investigate abuses in the H1B countries, the official said.
"Although this legal authority did exist, I don't think a Secretary of Labor before Secretary Scalia ever tried to use it. The president told him to do it. He is thrilled to start," the official said.